Sudden blood loss pushed Kevin Hill to the brink of death, but in a recent interview he revealed what his “near death experience” looked like. They might sound like a thing of movies, but a lot of research has gone into near death experiences, which aren’t hallucinations but something more unusual.
"I wasn't looking down at my body, but I was separate from my body. It was like I was in the spirit realm – I was conscious of what was going on but I had so much peace,” he told the Mirror. "I knew I was bleeding. I knew it was serious. The staff kept coming in and out to stop the bleeding."
Hill’s five-pint blood loss was brought on by calciphylaxis, a rare disease that causes calcium to accumulate in small blood vessels. It can cause necrosis of the skin and fatty tissue, sometimes leading to severe bleeding.
Seeing a white light, encountering an otherworldly presence, and seeing your life flash before your eyes are all well-worn clichés associated with dying. However, research shows that these phenomena are in fact surprisingly common during near death experiences, reported across the globe from people of all cultural backgrounds.
In 2022, the first ever peer-reviewed statement on the scientific study of death set out to uncover the potential mechanisms, ethical implications, and methodological considerations for studying death, and turned up some interesting observations.
Generally speaking, your average near death experience involves first feeling separated from your body while being aware of your imminent death; then a meaningful and purposeful analysis of your actions, intentions and thoughts; before a sense of feeling at home until you eventually return to the real world. It sounds like a fever dream, but near death experiences apparently have little in common with hallucinations.
While both hallucinations and near death experiences involve witnessing events that aren’t actually occurring, their similarities pretty much end there apart from what comes next. Often, both hallucinations and near death experiences are followed by the same sort of positive long-term psychological transformation that recent studies have associated with the use of substances like psilocybin.
That certainly seems to have been the case for Hill.
“The situation has made me refocus my priorities,” he said. "When I came out of the hospital my family atmosphere changed dramatically. I have become more resilient. I know I can bounce back."
Apparently he’s far from alone, as one-in-ten people around the world report having had a near death experience at some point in their life. That’s according to findings that were presented at the annual meeting of the European Academy of Neurology back in 2019 that recruited more than 1,000 people from 35 countries.
Of the 289 self-reported near death experiences, 106 were considered genuine, and among them the most common traits were abnormal time perception (87 percent), exceptional speed of thought (65 percent), exceptionally vivid senses (63 percent), and feeling separated from or out of their body (53 percent).
Evidently there’s still much to learn about this curious phenomenon, but if you want our two cents: try to steer clear of doing your own personal research on this one.
[H/T: Popular Mechanics]